I had hoped to have photos of vigorous pea shoots and tall greens by now but this ‘one step forward two steps back’ spring were having has delayed everything – both in terms of what I’ve been able to plant and what has yet to appear at the farmer’s market. Although there are many emerging perennials, for the most part my backyard is still looking rather bare.
This month I have eaten the last of many of my frozen and preserved bounty. The canned tomato sauce, rhubarb-strawberry jam, frozen zucchini and stored winter squash to name a few. This of course is the classic hungry gap. The time in between when the stored harvest from last year peters out and the vegetables of early spring have yet to arrive. I hope to be better prepared for this next year with more food preserved as well as more perennial vegetables planted, but until then I am getting my dose of leafy greens by foraging for edible weeds.
I’ve been eating them in salads and sandwiches, wilting them with butter like spinach and making jelly and syrup with the edible flowers of violets and dandelions. Garlic mustard, dandelions and wild violets are abundant near parks, bike paths and outside your front door.
The garlic mustard in particular infests my own garden and I have found the best way to keep it under control is to eat it. It has a slight garlicky smell and a pronounced mustard heat that gets stronger as the leaves get bigger – great in a sandwich. Dandelion leaves add a radicchio-like bitterness which complements the green freshness of the wild violet leaves. These are just three easily identifiable edible weeds out of the many that grow in urban yards. If you’re going foraging yourself be certain to know what you’re eating before putting it in your mouth(and wash it). A good guidebook is helpful but joining a guided walk is even better.
Remember to stay off private property and pick responsibly – don’t decimate an entire population of anything and be smart; don’t eat anything you suspect may have been sprayed with pesticide (or dog pee)!